Today I watched Marcus Nispel’s Conan the Barbarian (2011)
So I already discussed how the original 1982 was a classic and a masterpiece in its own right, so how does this remake-in-name-only hold up? Well it dispenses with the philosophical nature of the first and doubles down on violence and blood in a way that makes me hope Marcus Nispel directs a Mortal Kombat movie. The flick has a solid cast, lots of cool visuals, great action and a terrible script, what more could you ask for from a fun thrill ride of a fantasy?
I may be in a very small minority who really like this movie but I think its poor script does not hamper this cast and crew from delivering solid entertainment. Jason Momoa does a great job as Conan, he has that action hero ‘it’ factor, maybe not the best actor but his presence and persona are infectious. Ron Perlman as Conan’s father is inspired casting to say the least, he is not in the film for very long but he gives the film a heart it would not have otherwise. Finally Stephen Lang as the villain is the perfect balance between gravitas and cheese. On the other hand his daughter, played by cult ‘legend’ Rose McGowan, is all ham all the time, her delicious scenery chewing pairs so well with Lang’s Shakespearean theatrics. The cast all seem like they are having a great time and thus I feel like I am having a good time.
The big downside here is our requisite damsel in distress; the actress does fine, she is hardly annoying but the problem is the script. The writers missed so many opportunities to go in a more interesting, less cliche direction with it, it’s just lazy writing. The other problem is that the special effects look largely on the cheap side, but I have always been someone who cares more about what you show instead of how you show it. Anyone with money can bring about a gorgeous special effect, but it is concept designers and artists who can breathe life into even the worst 90’s CGIsploitation. So here, while it frequently looks fairly cheap, I will give it a pass because I thought the Imagery was pretty darn cool and quite inventive in spots.
It is not the pure classic that Milius delivered in the 80’s but it is a solid ride. All my problems with it are the kinds of things I would need to deal with when watching almost any movie of this genre and I think this movie is better than most in terms of having fun with the tropes. There is a lot of fun to be had and I think this film deserves something of a re-appraisal. It is certainly a more satisfying experience than that troubled Hobbit series. Oh yeah the villain has a land yacht that rides upon the backs of elephants, how cool is that? 4/5